“I’m not an outlaw country singer,” Luke Bryan recently informed a journalist. No shit: He’s a platinum-selling bro-country standard-bearer, a stadium-packing spring-break soundtracker, a good ol’ boy you could bring home to Mom — a pop star with a drawl, a ball cap and a Chevy Z71 full of cheeseball power-ballad guitar lines. Bryan’s fifth studio album is well-turned Nashville radio bait, trite yet undeniable, sure to drive up bar tabs in 50 states and beyond.
Dude knows his core fan base, and it’s no accident the lead three songs target ladies: The cornfield line-dance anthem “Kick the Dust Up” asks one gal to “back it on up,” the Eighties-rockin’ title track asks another to “pull me in,” and the sexy, quiet-storm-ish “Strip It Down” instructs a lucky barefoot someone to “feel my belt turn loose from these old blue jeans.” Sneer at the “lemme-lemme” hook of “Love It Gone” all you want, but there are actually some valuable lessons in how to care for your lover. Still, the best jam — “Home Alone Tonight,” a firecracker duet with Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild — is about getting wasted with a barroom stranger, taking a selfie with ’em and sending it to your ex. Now that’s country music. Nowadays, anyhow.